All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Birth of Maine's Toothpick Industry

The following is from an article called "The Toothpick Industry in Maine," published in the Dec. 1887 issue of The Manufacturer and Builder.
The wooden toothpick is no small thing in the industrial activity of Maine. The original wooden toothpick man is said to be Charles Forster, of Strong, Franklin county. He has done more for the teeth of America, it is said, than any other man under the sweep of her eagle's wings. He whittled the original box of Yankee toothpicks, but he copied the art from natives of South America, where he was a merchant years ago. The South Americans picked their teeth with whittled out splints. Forster sent a sample box to his wife in the United States as a curiosity. A hotel man got hold of them and sent to Forster for a box, and the latter whittled them out and filled the order. More orders came, and he began to get busy. Pretty soon he had natives whittling out toothpicks for hotels all over the United States. He moved home and opened up a branch office, and in 1860 began making his toothpicks by machinery. The first year he sold 65 cases, containing 250,000 toothpicks each. Now he sells 30,000 cases a year. He is thought to make three-fifths of all the wooden toothpicks made in the country.
Forster Manufacturing Company produced toothpicks in Strong until 2003, when the mill was closed.

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